How do I let ALL the bugs know they're no longer welcome?
April 20, 2020 12:03 PM   Subscribe

What are some general indoor insect-repellent measures I can take in my home?

Moved into a new apartment this month, so far have killed multiple spiders, moths, some kind of tiny beetle, and one giant centipede. Aside from spraying Raid on every square inch, how do I let the bugs know their lease is up?

The last tenants were pretty unsanitary--we had professional cleaners here for 3 hours and still had to scrub the house room by room just to get the visible staining off of things. Apparently they were in to home brewing? But were not very clean about it. Anyway, I think now that there isn't so much general filth/food particles around the bugs may die down in due course, however I want to do EVERYTHING in my power to make sure all these guys get the message to get out.

What I've done:
-All food is in airtight containers
-All surfaces have been both cleaned and disinfected including walls
-Everything has been vacuumed
-Moth traps are up and more are on order
-Caulking up every hole I can find (and running out of caulk)
-Gooshing any insect I see without mercy

What I'm considering:
-Sprinkling cloves around-- read somewhere they have an anti-insect effect
-Washing all fabrics on hot
-Raid. Would like to avoid over-toxic things since we're in lock-down and at home 24/7, but maybe a little raid in the nooks and crannies?

What do you suggest?
posted by Calicatt to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Rather than Raid, I'd sprinkle diatomaceous earth in nooks in crannies. It's non-toxic and totally safe unless you have an exoskeleton.
posted by dr. boludo at 12:10 PM on April 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

Cloves help. You can use whole cloves or even the essential oil. I use whole because I end up vacuuming up any ground cloves. But if using deep in nooks and crannies, ground cloves could work.

Just about any essential oil I've tried will get rid of ants' scent trails so they can't make their way back in. Technically citrus and peppermint EO are suppose to work the best, or so says the internet.

What worked for me when I briefly lived in a basement infested with spider crickets, very well fed spiders, and every sort of creepy crawly known to man: Ortho Indoor/Outdoor defense. It's a liquid, not under pressure so distribution is a bit more controlled. Probably not the gentlest thing to do.
Maybe spray a tiny bit near the most isolated window or near an UNUSED electrical outlet in the apt. See if it gives you a headache. Spray a little more the next day, etc etc
posted by Neekee at 12:36 PM on April 20, 2020

Don’t kill spiders, unless you have venomous-to-humans ones. They’re really good at killing other insects. Keep clean, kill non-spiders, when you’re out of everything but non-spiders thank the spiders and sweep them outdoors.

(I worry that there’s sweet home brew soaked into somewhere you can’t see. Carpet underlay, subflooring generally. When you’ve cleaned does a smell return in the next few days?)
posted by clew at 2:25 PM on April 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Leave the predators (spiders and centipedes) alone. They're not insects (arachnids and myriapods, respectively), and they are your allies. Centipedes can give a painful bite but they won't do it unprovoked.

For moths, the way to go depends on the kind of moths. You want to starve them. If you have pantry moths, make sure that any flour, rice, etc. is stored in thick airtight containers. The larvae can chew through paper and plastic, so if you use plastic, make sure it's thick. For clothes moths, use mothballs or cedar chips in drawers with wool and other animal fibers. (Pantry moths will also eat natural fibers, so inspect clothing regularly, too.) Look in the corners of the ceiling for webbing that contains moth pupae. I once came home after a summer trip to find a serious pantry moth infestation, centered on a large bag of rice that the summer renters had left open in the breezeway, and I was able to eradicate them without recourse to pesticides by depriving them of food and regularly inspecting the area for pupae.
posted by brianogilvie at 4:31 PM on April 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you have spiders that often means drafts. That's why they congregate near windows and doorways. Replacing weatherstripping will often do a lot to keep them out.

Probably your best bet is to pause a few days in your killing spree and see if you keep having problems. If you don't have a pet, use gels instead of sprays for remaining problems, so you don't breathe in fumes.
posted by emjaybee at 6:47 PM on April 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

I used an 8% solution of cedar tree oil in water, sprayed around the baseboards, to good effect. It's a strong smell, but not unpleasant, and it fades. You have to keep shaking the mixture, since the oil doesn't dissolve in water. The oil can be had online cheaply, if you search persistently.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:21 AM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Entomologist here!

Bugs travel and try to find resources. If they can get in, they will come in; if there is food, they will stay, and reproduce. (If ants, they will recruit others.) You might have been joking with "get the message", but just in case you weren't, there's no way that you can "teach" them that they're not welcome; they cannot "learn" to stay away from your house.

Other than maybe the moths, it doesn't sound like you have any sort of infestation. Are they all the same kind of moths? Same size and colors? Or are there different kinds of moths? If it's all the same kind of moth, then yeah, maybe there was an infestation because of the delicious home brewing. The moths will die out and not come back if they can't get to their food sources. You've already got that handled.

For the other arthropods, because you seem to be describing a pretty diverse group of things, I think you're probably experiencing a lot of inflow. You've talked about caulking up every hole you can see, but I'm wondering about window drafts and external wall openings. Laundry? Dryer vents are basically a door if they're not really sealed up tightly. If there are any small holes in your ventilation system, too, then things that are living in the walls (and I'm sorry, there just are things living in the walls, and no amount of hygiene will change that, it is a fact of bugs) could get in through vents.

As for solutions:

Diatomaceous earth was already mentioned, but not all DE is the same, so here's a good fact sheet about diatomaceous earth. FWIW, diatomaceous earth works by sticking to bugs and drying them out. (We used to think that it actually pierced them, but probably not; it absorbs lipids and water really quickly and loses its sharpness as it does so.) This is why it's not harmful to humans or pets, because we just can't get dried out by it (though, like all silica, you should not eat it). However, it's not completely effective against everything, because some bugs will actually avoid it and thus not get kill'ded, and some just have such thick wax that even the silica dust won't dry them out. It's easy to use and safe, though, and you can even find some commercial formulations that are made to be stickier than pure DE. Boric acid is another option for a dust that you can use in corners and around the perimeter, but it is probably harmful to kids and pets.

The other good option is to hire pest control and pay them to come out and spray, have them do that regularly. This is honestly what I most strongly recommend, because it's the thing that will actually work.

I wish I could tell you that there are good home-remedy repellants, but there just really aren't. Oil of Lemon eucalyptus (p-menthane-3,8-diol) *does* work [not lemon oil, not eucalyptus oil] but it's not any less a chemical repellent than DEET is. Essential oils (cedar, citronella) only work until they evaporate, and they don't work against everything. Most repellents are meant for repelling mosquitos and ticks. Napthalene in mothballs works, but mostly just for moths.

In short: pay for pest control or accept a low level of inevitable arthropod presence. You're already doing everything else that you can do.

I want to tell you to stop killing the spiders, but my aesthetic preferences are not your aesthetic preferences.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:34 PM on April 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all for your knowledge and suggestions!
posted by Calicatt at 5:00 PM on April 24, 2020

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